Set Pieces: FCIAC Boys And Girls Soccer Races Appear Wide Open

When the FCIAC closed up its soccer shops last fall, the Greenwich boys and St. Joseph girls teams had steamrolled to league titles.

Ridgefield got a share of the Class LL boys crown, while the St. Joseph girls completed a dream season in which it went unbeaten, with one draw, by winning the Class LL championship.

As a new season opens up, the evolving storyline is intrigue. Many of the usual powers are expected to contend, but this fall will see some unaccustomed guests trying to crash the party. With defections to academy programs, it remains to be seen how much the caliber of play will be affected, but it certainly is not going to help. It will serve as an unwanted gap closer.


Football 2014: The 25 Players To Watch And Sleeper List

Compiling a list of the 25 players to watch and five sleepers is sort of like fielding the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. With a large bubble, there are more teams than spots.

Such was the case with putting this list together. Too many good players and a lot of head-scratching, erasing and second-guessing before you finally pound the table and come to terms with having to make final decisions.

This list will probably look a little different in three months. Players perform better than expected, shooting stars emerge on the radar and, unfortunately, injuries do happen.

For now, it would be hard to argue that the following FCIAC players, based on their body of work a year ago, are deserving of preseason recognition, and we are adding five players you may not be that familiar with right now, but will be in the weeks ahead.


Football 2014: Greenwich’s Austin Longi Is A Touchdown Waiting To Happen

GREENWICH—Rich Albonizio has a confession: there are times when a play is called for Austin Longi, and the coach on the sideline takes a brief respite and adopts a fan’s mindset.

“He’s fun to watch,” said Albonizio, the veteran coach of the Greenwich High School football team. “He just does things that you’ve never seen before.”

While there were several reasons the Cardinals’ 1-2 start a year ago was turned around into an 8-3 overall mark, Longi’s contributions were the biggest. His numbers look like misprints: 2,881 all-purpose yards, including 909 on special teams, where he scored five of his 33 touchdowns.


The Countdown: Technology: New Canaan Always Looking For An Edge, Byte By Byte

NEW CANAAN—The room is approximately 15 x 18 feet, with a small adjoining bathroom. Inside on a table are five monitors, an Apple computer, as well as three desktops, four laptops and several iPads.

There is a whiteboard used for diagrams or to view video from a projector.

There is no sign on the nondescript front door, which is why dozens of people walk by it daily with no idea what is inside.

“It’s the war room, which is exactly what it sounds like,” said John Marinelli, the offensive coordinator for the New Canaan High School football team. “It’s where we game plan and strategize for our upcoming opponent.”


A Lot Of Ruden Report Media Day Thank-Yous

We don’t make the habit of covering Ruden Report sponsored events, but in this case an exception is needed because there are so many people to thank after Tuesday night’s second FCIAC Football Media Day at Zody’s 19th Hole. It was nice to see all of the league’s coaches and captains together in one room, as well as many colleagues from the media.

As for the thank-yous:

Thanks first to Armen Keteyian, the guest speaker, who did an outstanding job of taking his experiences as a former high school and college player, and then covering college and professional sports — his best-selling book The System was just released in paperback — and relating it to high school football.

Thanks to all the teams for coming out. At this time of year, the travel and two hours are a lot in their busy schedules. Hopefully it was worth it.


The Countdown: The Boosters: Dan DeVito Keeps Staples Program Purring Off The Field

WESTPORT—Marce Petroccio will be the first to admit it took more than a village to turn around the Staples High School football program, which had won nine games in the previous seven seasons when he was hired in 1993.

Twenty-one years, 183 wins, three state and three FCIAC championships later, Petroccio said none of it would have been possible if not for the person who has stood by his side the longest.

It is the man who convinced the search committee looking for a savior that Petroccio was the person to turn the Wreckers into a perennial contender, and has stood by his side ever since, making good on a promise over two decades old.

“Without Dan DeVito, we never would have had the success we have had,” Petroccio said.